Israel naval vessel patrolling Gaza coast
Israel naval vessel patrolling Gaza coastIsrael News Photo: (IDF)

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asked her counterpart in Cyprus on Saturday to remove weaponry discovered aboard an Iranian vessel presently docked in Limassol port.

The ship, sailing under the Cypriot flag, is believed to be carrying ordnance intended for delivery to Hamas and allied terrorists in Gaza, in violation of United Nations resolutions. Gaza terrorists receive missiles and other weaponry through land and sea smuggling routes. Despite Israel Navy patrols, "fishermen" are sometimes able to pick up "shipments" that are dropped off by smugglers in waterproof containers.

Livni spoke by telephone with Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, who said security forces had searched the ship on Friday and that he had ordered them to repeat the search Saturday, saying he was still not sure there had been a violation of U.N. resolutions.

Kyprianou told Cyprus state radio, "This is a very serious matter concerning the Cyprus Republic's responsibilities as a member of the United Nations and the European Union, but also its relations with the international community." He refused to provide any information about what was found on the vessel, saying it would disturb the government's investigation, and urged patience "for a few days."

The Iranian vessel was already stopped and searched by United States naval authorities last week at the entrance to the Suez Canal, where it was discovered that there were arms on board.

The vessel was held up at Suez temporarily by Egypt as a result, but the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen told a news conference in Washington D.C. that the same ship had sailed to Syria earlier last week, and had headed towards Gaza from there. He added that American naval officers could not hold the ship due to legal limitations, and that a more specific U.N. resolution was required to authorize such a move.

The vessel was held by Cypriot authorities when it reached the port on Thursday, at the request of the United States and Israel. Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias told reporters that authorities were "handling this situation in a responsible manner" and that he could not "make comments which could… cause more problems."